Monday, November 16, 2015

grace

John 1:16  "For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."  DailyBibleMeme.com 
This world is so broken and battered. It is filled with sin; deep, darkened, black sin. Attacks in France, bombings in Bagdad, ISIS attacks, child slavery, sex trafficking, the killing of innocent through abortion. This list could go on forever. And my heart cries in pain for those suffering. My soul is in anguish for the people of this earth. The response of my human heart is to be angry with those imitating these actions, but is the Christian response? 

Grace: unmerited, free, undeserving  

My soul is broken, battered, bruised. My soul is that of a sinner. My heart is filled with sin, deep, dark, black sin. I am but a nobody in this place. I am worthless, until grace came. When grace came, my soul was filled. My heart was healed. It is not black, it is pure with the power of Christ. God granted me grace, undeserving, unmerited grace. And I can do nothing but offer these people the same. 

The people who have been hurt, they need grace. The people who hurt, they need grace. My duty as a Christian is go into this broken world with the power of the gospel of grace. My call is to love the brokenhearted, and to love those who broke the hearts. No, I do not condone the actions of ISIS or abortion doctors or those who enslave people, but I cannot judge them. That is God's business. I can only love them. Jesus commanded that we love our enemies. It is no easy task, but will you join me in praying for our enemies? They are only broken human beings who need Jesus as much as you and me.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Unbeaten Path

Life is like a hike. You are born and you start off down the beaten path that many others have already taken. There are signs leading you here or there…elementary school, college, traveling, jobs…You follow the tree markers for the path you want. But then sometimes you find a less worn trail, and you think to yourself “that looks so lovely and undiscovered” and you decide to take the worn trail or the less taken deer path. You stay for a while on the trail, but then suddenly decide to dash up the hill; conquer the unknown. Be different. Not conform to the pattern the world sets.

Your friends and family look at you and say “be careful! There are cliffs you could fall off and slippery slopes you might slide down.” But that is life. As you dart up that hill you lose breath. You grab the next tree, hoping it holds you. You settle your footing and wonder if you should continue. But it’s worth it. What you see ahead is the top of a hill and you long to know what is on the other side. And you will succeed.

You might meet a fellow adventurer along the way. Someone else who has chosen the steep hill. You encourage each other and remind each other that you can do this. You know you are not alone in this. There are others who have seen the beauty of a different way and have chosen a way the world does not know. You will climb some rocks and as you reach the top realize you must climb down: for that was not where life was leading and it will not take you to the top of the mountain. So you turn around and climb down, seeing some of the same sights, but in a new light. As you slide down the slope and grab tree roots for footing, you say “Oh, Jesus, please don’t let me die. Help me down.” And that’s just how life happens sometimes. But He is always faithful, and you always make it down those rocks and slippery slopes you adventured up. Sure, the others might be ahead of you, but you’ll catch up. The challenge was worth it.

As you reach the beaten path, you rest a while and stay with your friends. But as you journey with them the undiscovered calls again. You choose which mountain to conquer and then you run. You are wild and free. You have chosen to be radical and to live fiercely. To move mountains and pray hard. That path the rest of the world takes is too easy for you. There are incredible starry nights and there are forest fires, but the life you have chosen is most rewarding. You finally reach the top of that mountain only to find it is not a mountain, but a foothill. Yes, the view is incredible and might stop and rest for a while, but then you continue as you see the summit in the distance and long to see the view from above.

Life takes us to funny places, especially when we choose the unbeaten path. It’s harder, but oh so rewarding. The glory of God is around us in it. And when we reach the summit, He calls us up further; home, to spend forever enveloped in His glory. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Heavenly Eyes


"If this is earth, I can't imagine what heaven looks like!" This is a saying I have often heard (what can I say, I like to be in pretty places that people would compare to heaven!), and one I have said frequently, especially as of late. G.K. Chesterton said "What's wrong with the world is that we don't often enough ask what's right with it." What's right with this world is God created it, and He said it was good. It was a beauty to behold in His eyes, this earth He had created. 

I always appreciated the outdoors and beauty of the earth, but it wasn't until some incredible God-things happened in my life this past spring that I was in awe of this earth. How did my life change? My soul fell in love with Jesus and His Spirit dwelt in me. My life became joy. Jesus said "I have come so your joy may be full," and oh, has he done that! As this happened I began to be in awe of every sunset I saw, crashing wave I heard, shining star in a night sky, foggy mornings on the way to work, country roads with arching green trees surrounding, waterfalls in the midst of the forest. Summer nights spent swinging among the bright green trees, bicycle rides down back roads, lookouts that covered miles. I saw the world in a whole new set of eyes; heavenly eyes. 

It is when Christ dwells among and in us that the glimpses of heaven are most vivid. After all, He is God come to earth. We receive this glorious vision when we receive Him into our lives. I'm not talking about that one time you prayed for Jesus to come into your heart. I'm talking about the everyday decision to have Jesus in you. I'm talking about the moments spent in prayer and the times we glorify His name. The times we praise Him and have a worshiping heart. The times we come before His throne of grace with thanksgiving on our lips. It is then He fills us with great joy and peace, and gives us a new set of eyes.

What if we're not just seeing little pieces of earth that will never compare to heaven (because, let's just face it, there are some incredibly beautiful places on this planet!), but God is giving us glimpses of heaven? What if when our lives are most in-tune to Jesus and our hearts are filled with worship and awe for our beautiful Savior, God grants us heavenly eyes? God's hand is painting a beautiful picture, of your lives, this earth, and heaven. For now we get pieces, but one day we'll see the finished product!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

you are loved

We had a team down from Michigan this week. The main thing we did was take photos and measurements of each child for sponsorship. My job was to write each child’s name down on an index card. This meant I saw each face; every single child in kindergarten to 6th grade that attends this school. It wasn’t until I had already been through three classrooms before I realized what a privilege this was. I could see each person and tell them they were beautiful. I could look into every face and tell them Jesus loves them.

Sometimes the next child would tell me “No. She isn’t pretty.” And I would tell them all over again.

So I would whisper it into their ear so that the others couldn't say this.

Sometimes I had the entire class in an uproar of laughter. Probably because of my kindergarten-Creole grammar, but that was the goal; smiles and joy. I’d tell each person these things and remind them to smile for their picture because I love smiles and their smiles are beautiful and God made them beautiful.

And they always smiled.

Several times since this I have passed a class and I’ll hear one or two people say “Sveta! Souri!” (Sveta! Smile!) accompanied by the whole class laughing. But that’s okay. Seeing the joy on these kids’ faces as I told them those words is worth every bit of teasing. In those three days I realized what my goal in life is: to make each person know they are loved.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

the little girl who brought me back to reality

It was day three of VBS. 250 kids and 16 adults were in the chapel. My row seemed to hold the most wiggly children, but maybe that is just what children do. "Sit" is a foreign word, even spoken in their language. If you say "Be quiet." they look at you like you're an alien. That's okay, though, except when you're in chapel. One girl got mad at her friend, and after hitting her she promptly sits next to me with a scowl on her face like I'm supposed to do something about it. Said friend starts complaining. Someone (or more than one) is rubbing my arm or pulling my hair. Four kids argued over who could sit next to me, and in the process they practically sat on top of each other. I had to smile at that one. And one little boy amused himself by pinching all the little girls in sight. I finally decided to ignore the chaos around me and dance and sing with the behaving kids. Not two minutes later another hand reaches my arm, pats for my attention, and continues to do so. Finally I look over and see a smiling face of a little girl telling me I'm her friend. My mind wanders off to yesterday morning…
I was making my rounds checking all the classes when I was stopped by the visiting nurse and a little girl, who appeared to be around eight years old. The girl had a head wound that the nurse wanted to clean out, but the nurse needed help communicating with her. I volunteered to give it a try since Mary Jane was otherwise occupied. I told the girl the nurse wanted to help her and she would clean her wound. The little girl looked up at me with her big brown eyes and gave me a quick nod okay. We went to the class where the supplies were and as the nurse cleaned the wound, I talked to the girl. Besides the fact that she had never been to school, I couldn’t understand what she said to me. I was, however, able to tell her that we loved her, that she was our friend, that we wanted to help her, that Jesus loves her, and that she is beautiful. Afterwards we went on our separate ways, and in the busy-ness of the day this incident got pushed to the back of my head until chapel the next morning, where I looked up at yet another child wanting my attention to see this little girl squeezing my hand and smiling at me. I had a new friend. She had a new friend.
My prayer is that she found the greater friend than I in that week, the One who sticks closer than a brother. It’s in moments like this that I am reminded why I do what I do, and why I want to do it for the rest of my life. I might not be able to love every child in the world, but Jesus can, and I can sow seeds wherever I go, bringing hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and love to the forgotten.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Jacmel

I have always wanted to live by the sea. I never thought the answer to that prayer might be that I could see the water, but not go near it. I currently reside outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and every time I hang the laundry out I see the glorious blue water of the Caribbean Sea stretching out before me. Well, technically it’s the bay of the Caribbean Sea, but same difference. The point is, the sea is basically right outside my door, but I can’t go to it. I guess this glorious view makes the situation a little better.

However, last week I had a treat. We had a team in helping out with a vbs and at the end of the week they got a day off. I have to admit I was a little disappointed to hear they chose going to the mountains over the beach. I love mountains, but I’d already been in January, so I was hoping they would choose the beach. The night before I found out we were going to different mountains than I’d been before so that I could see another part of the island. I got a little more excited. Then Mary Jane told everyone to bring clothes to swim in because there’d most likely be a beach for swimming once we reached Jacmel, our destination city. What?! Mountains and the beach in one day? “I am one lucky girl.” I thought.

Bright and early, and possibly half asleep, we prepared for our day trip. I threw together a bag of towels, sunglasses, money, camera and ya know, all that tourist stuff I might need. Being an indecisive person I threw in an extra pair of clothes, just in case. Then the driver didn’t show up. So we called him. He thought we had a different driver lined up, but being a good sport he came for us on last minute. We finally got out the door around ten, two hours past planned time. No sooner had we pulled onto the highway did we get met with a traffic jam. Now those nasty things are way too common here, and so I’ve grown used to traffic jams nearly every time I go anywhere here, but this was a might-as-well-turn-off-the-engine-and-walk traffic jam. Oh, did I mention the driver also misunderstood how many people we had, so we were all quite cozy with each other, kind of like a can of sardines. Eventually the traffic got moving and we were off.

We began to climb higher. The winding road up was better than any roller coaster ride. The view got incredible. What I had seen before was hills compared to this. This was mountains. And it was unlike any other mountains I’d ever seen before. (I’m used to snowcapped mountains in the Rockies) Some were bare and brown, but still gorgeous, and some were lush and green, filled with terrace gardens. Pretty soon we were in the clouds. And the view. Pictures will never do it justice.





After breathing in the cool, mountain air we hit sea. Ocean, really. Our destination was a hotel placed in a cove-looking area, surrounded by tropical flowers, palm trees, lush green grass, and hammocks. Tropical paradise, anyone? We placed our food orders - I got fish - and hit the water. We had a baptism service where four members of the team got baptized. It was a special time welcoming them into the Body of Christ.

We went swimming in the lovely torqoise water for about an hour. Oh, and my extra change of clothes? While a bunch of us were swimming I noticed the Haitain girl with us wasn't in the water. I went to invite her in, and our driver said "Oh, she said she doesn't want to." Mary Jane said "She didn't bring clothes." I said "Oh, but I have some for her!" and then turned to her, and begged her to join, which she did, and emensly enjoyed, I might add.







Lunch was delicious, minus the millions of bones in my fish. Gosh those things have lots of bones, but it was good none the less. I might add that I ate an eye too, just because I could.


Some people had set up tables of souvenirs along one of the beach areas, so we all headed down there to get some deals. It was fun, and brought back memories of bartering in Tanzania.

Shortly after this we headed back towards home, with no major events on the road. I still long to live by the sea, AND be able to go to it often, but I am thankful for the day in Jacmel. The mountains really do claim the majesty of God and that place where water meets sky...it has always left me in awe of the gloriousness of God. Our God is an awesome God, the best of all artists.



Friday, March 13, 2015

in my weakness i am made strong


"I've had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don't have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin' what to do
I know I should be working but I'm thinking of you and
Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That's when your smile comes around"
(Jamie Grace)

I used to hate those songs. You know, the ones where you could hardly tell if it was a love song to your significant other or God. I didn’t like putting God on the level of human relationships. I’d be driving with K-love on and this comes on “I love the way you hold me…” Sure, God loved me, but to me God was a sovereign ruler, not someone I’d sing love songs to. I would say to myself as I changed the station, “God is more than your boyfriend or girlfriend! He deserves more! He doesn’t deserve to have the same kind of words as them. He’s the King of the universe!” Then God got a hold me, broke me, and I fell in love.

It was slowly and by surprise. My life took a twist when I moved to Tanzania, and back again. My heart broke into a million pieces and scattered about falling on each person I met there. It broke so much I wasn’t sure I had any left with me. I had always had a good immune system, and rarely got sick, but then I got sick, really sick. At first it was the flu, I thought, and then it got worse. I couldn’t walk from the living room to kitchen without getting exhausted. Sleepless nights were spent in tears and prayers until I was too tired to do even that. How did God get a hold of me with this, you may wonder? Some people might retract from God when trials come, but this past year has proved to be opposite for me.

The worst times came when I was alone, unable to reach out to other people for help. I was on vacation when I had my worst episode. Far from home or family and stuck in an unfamiliar city (country girl here) in a hotel room, I was sicker than I’d ever been. Perfect timing…to trust in God. My Father was showing me that I cannot try to control my life. He holds it in His hands, He is the author, and I am the character. It was in times like this one that I cried out to God most, having to rely solely on Him. And every. single. time. He came through. Holding my hand He would say “My daughter, I am here. Come to me. Trust me.”

As the year wore on, I found myself in prayer much more than times past. I would simply talk to God like a friend, at any time of the day or night. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” An awareness of the Kingdom of God around me in each moment grew inside me despite the brokenness of my physical body. He was, and is, in every moment. He was there in my rejoicing as I watched a life come into this world, and He was there in my weeping over a dear friend lost in this world. He is there in the washing of dishes and folding of laundry. He is there in my dreams and in long talks with friends. He is there in the planting and harvesting of the gardens. He is constant, immortal. A knowledge grew that God is not just God, but He is Baba, Father, Rock, Strong Tower, Marvelous, King, Love, Grace, Peace, Beloved. He is in three – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Had this illness never come upon me, I would not know Jesus as I do now. I would not have the understanding I do now. I would not have the knowledge of how big God’s love is or how much I need Him. As my body and heart broke, my soul strengthened – in Christ. My constant prayer is for God to continue to break me and mold me into the being He desires me to be. And so I thank the Lord for being sick and needy. I thank the Lord for being broken. For it has been in my weakness that I have been made strong.

“Walk by faith, not by sight. As you take steps of faith, depending on Me, I will show you how much I can do for you. If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you. When I gave you my Spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your natural strength. That’s why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless. By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.”
(From ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young – written as if Jesus were speaking)

So you see, I fell in love last summer. I fell in love with the One who is like the shining sun above me. I now smile when these songs come on because God is my love. He is love in itself. He is everything I need, He is my Beloved.

“I am yours and you are mine. I am ravished by his sight, of one glimpse into your eyes. My lovers coming for his bride, but there is none upon the earth that I desire before you Lord. For you’ve been faithful all my days, your love endures it will never fade away. I need to say what my soul is singing. I need to say what my heart is screaming….that I love you, my Dear, my Dear…” (Bethel Music - My Dear)

(Linking up with The Grove this week.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gifted

"Have you thought about becoming a teacher?"

Those words were a question it seemed I was asked almost weekly by my boss, a good friend of my family. My reply was always "No. I don't think I want to." But the unvoiced reply was more like "Are you insane? Me? A teacher? Just ask my mother, I don't do so good with patience that a teacher needs, nor do I even want to teach!" But, you see, from my experiences (which isn't a lot, but still something), it is not such a good thing to say "I'll never do _______." That's almost like putting a dare on God, and usually God wins.

I said I would never ever ever (ever!) go to Africa. I did not want to go to Africa. I wanted to go to China or Peru or Scotland, but not Africa. My first travels outside of the US, and before I was 18 was six months spent in Africa. And ya know what? I loved it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty...I loved it all. Boy am I glad God didn't listen to pouty me when I said, "But God, I didn't want to go there!" I never in a million years dreamed I'd spend six months in Haiti less than a year after returning. I was actually afraid to come the first time (I came for a week last March) becuase I had my heart set on returning to Africa ASAP, and I was afraid (Well, I knew) that God would tell me to go back to Haiti (this was all before I even went at all! Crazy how God works.). That's a whole grand story in itself, but also another one of those "I'll never _______."

But in my last two years filled with travels, I have discovered so much more about who I am. I have found more of who God wants me to be. I've found gifts that God has put in me from the start of my life that I might have never found had I stayed in my sweet Kentucky home all my days.

1. Cooking. This may surprise some people who know me now to think that I didn't always love to cook. I've always enjoyed cooking, but never loved it until I went to Africa. There I took on the job of planning and cooking most meals for my family. I found it a fun challenge to cook on our charcoal stove on the pantry floor, and soon it became a passion. Now cooking is almost a stress reliever for me. I love to discover and create in the kitchen - whether that be a kitchen with tons of crazy gadgets or a lean-to with a dirt floor and fire. (In fact, the more challenge you give me in the kitchen, the more fun! Gluten free? Sure. Gluten and dairy free? Yay! Vegetarian? Of course [But I feel for you...]) I've been told "You have a gift in the kitchen. You love and it and can create anything." It's a gift God has given me, and maybe I would have discovered this one without traveling, but who knows.



2. Compassion. I always had a heart for hurting people, but it was never so vivid to me as when I went to Tanzania. There I spent many hours being a friend to orphaned children who knew no love. Even the orphange didn't know how to love these kids. My sisters and I learned how to bring joy into their lives, and I learned so much from them too. There were days I hated being there. I don't like to mention this part of the story, but the first time I visited the orphanage I'd soon be spending each day at, I swore I'd never go back to that filthy place. (See? Another "I'll never...") God had so much of a bigger plan (Doesn't He always?) and I learned how to love in that place. I learned that my heart goes out to the hurting.



3. Teaching. This was the big one. "I will never be a teacher." And yet I've always wanted to homeschool my children someday, and I am now interning at a Christian school in Haiti. Explain that one to me. I even came here saying "I really would prefer to not teach, but would rather work in the office." "I can make no promises," was always the reply from Mary Jane. Oh great! I attempted working in classrooms for English classes, but was not finding my groove in there. Then one day I walked in the office and Mary Jane had a little girl on her lap, she looks up and said "Oh good! I have a kid for you! She has been having trouble learning to write, so you can help her." "Uhhhh....." Before I could get a word in, the sweetest little girl was sitting on my lap and within two days she was writing her name beautifully. All she needed was a little encouragement and love. Before I knew it I'd found my groove...in tutoring the "trouble kids." It's a delight and joy to my days, and I have plans to help with tutoring at local elementary schools when I return to the sates.



I never dreamed I'd live in Haiti or Tanzania, but had I not I'd be missing out on these wonderful things in my life. There are other gifts God has given me and many other things the Lord has taught me in my journeys, but those are for another post. I'm incredibly thankful He doesn't listen to my selfish, narrow-minded heart somedays! So much I would have missed out on. How has God brought to mind the gifts He has given you? What lessons are you learning in your everyday life in the corner of the globe God has placed you at?

(Linking up at The Grove this week.)